Enterprise 2.0 - the non-debate

Enterprise 2.0 - the non-debate

Summary: If I'd paid the full whack $2,495 to attend the Enterprise 2.0 conference I'd be demanding at least a partial refund.

TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0

If I'd paid the full whack $2,495 to attend the Enterprise 2.0 conference I'd be demanding at least a partial refund. It seems the 'Enterprise 2.0 - what a crock' debate was less than a damp squib and more like a feeble whimper. Here's the back story:

In August I wrote:

Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types - except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then - where are the use cases? I’d like to know.

Susan Scrupski asked me if I was going to attend Enterprise 2.0 and would I participate on the panel. Given what I had already said and after I stopped laughing, the answer was an emphatic no. Why would I waste my time listening to a bunch of talking heads trot out the same claptrap I've been hearing the last several years? It seems the panel didn't disappoint my lowly expectations. This is what one attendee said of the debate:

They delivered some interesting, but disappointingly similar-sounding, defenses of how technologies like blogs, wikis, and social networks can benefit big companies. The panelists said that one of the hurdles to convincing enterprise-scale organizations that these new tools are worth their money is the difficulty in quantifying the business benefits. It’s hard to calculate an exact return on investment when it comes to better collaboration: “When somebody figures that out, they’ll make a million,” said Greg Lowe, social media architect and program manager at Alcatel

On the Twitter back channel, Nenshad Bardoliwalla told me:

Your presence here at #e2conf is very palpable.  They had a whole panel to answer your question on value, and failed MISERABLY.

Very flattering Nenshad but is that The Ghost of Christmas Future?

Why am I not surprised? I've argued for years that the notion of anything that has 'social' attached to its moniker is about as welcome as breaking wind in a spacesuit. I've also argued that I've never heard anyone ask for some Enterprise 2.0 though I've heard plenty ask for ERP, CRM etc. Most recently, the new buzz phrase 'social business design' has hit the streets. Here's one definition:

Social Business Design is the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.

Its goal: helping organizations improve value exchange among constituents.

Good luck with that one.

Perhaps the panel would have done better had they taken a leaf out of Andrew McAfee's book. In his presentation about Enterprise 2.0 no-no's, he says:

Like too many words in the English language, 'social' has taken on a handful of different meanings. Though most would probably agree that technically it's an accurate word when used to describe various enterprise solutions, the implications are not always desirable.

"I have never come across a word that has more negative connotations to a busy pragmatic manager," said McAfee, explaining that he's seen many-a-boss assume that 'social' tools wouldn't help anything but employees talk too much and goof off.

Though McAfee didn't suggest a new or better word to use (collaboration? communities?)  he finished the presentation with an interesting image choice to illustrate how some managers interpret the use of 'social' solutions: two dirty hippies hugging it out at Woodstock, surrounded by litter and despair.

[My emphasis added]

At this point I must give Andy McAfee full credit for acknowledging the bleeding obvious. Isn't that what I've been saying for years? The problem for those trying to pimp this stuff is they're now stuck with two things: 'social' intermingled at every turn because no-one can think of anything better and 2.0 which roots them at a moment in time. It's a classic example of bandwagon marketing that looks sexy yet has gone nuts in the process. Crowdsourcing at its worst.

I find it amazing that despite the relentless spin on this topic, it seems the challenges of changing culture take the hand wavers by complete surprise. The only conclusion I can reach is that none of these people has done any significant work inside organizations or if they have then they haven't a clue about how business is organized, how the moving parts operate, how business cultures develop or what motivates people to work. If true then they are either charlatans or dim witted.

What I find staggering is that despite the panel's general acknowledgment that 'it is early days' they have no clear answers for solving the problems that Enterprise 2.0 evokes. If this is the best that industry can put forward then forget it. There are far bigger problems to solve like correctly managing the workforce in times of economic crisis, smoothing out lumpy supply chains, beating down on data center costs or just getting ERP to deliver the benefits that were intended and which have consumed billions of IT spend dollars.

For those interested in such things: here's a blow by blow account of the Enterprise 2.0 debate from Timo Elliott. I was nodding off to sleep after the first couple of answers.

UPDATE: at least one attendee was less than wowed:

I spoke to a few large companies (that will remain nameless) in private that were brutally honest with me about how disjointed their departments are and they honestly don’t believe that their organizations are not going to make this change, how can they?  I feel like the E2.0 panel I’m watching right now is so watered down that it’s almost pointless; it’s just not reality.

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Mega-Corps & the world

    There is life beyond the Mega-Corp drone
    culture where management punishes the
    worker ants for a mistake and threatens
    them with layoffs and pay cuts.

    No thanks, small enterprise business
    is the groundwork, big mega-corps
    are puppet shells with CEO's pulling
    the strings.
    • And this is relevant to the point how? (nt)

    • LOL,Go back to your basement continue reading Orwell chicken little - nt

  • RE: Enteprise 2.0 - the non-debate

    Well put
  • RE: Enteprise 2.0 - the non-debate

    Unfortunately Dennis, you make a lot of good points. We've been pushing to remove social from the Enterprise 2.0 lexicon for some time.

    It's true, when confronted with buying a murky Enterprise 2.0 solution vs. a better ERP, CRM or MRP solution, business decision makers will choose the latter every time. Worse, when they hear "social" most feel it's a time waster and will pull people off their "real" work.

    As an industry we need to define specific categories under E2.0 that denote real business purpose.

    Alas, I'm preparing a detailed response to your post where I'll expand on my comments above.
  • Just more confirmation...

    ...that there are too many people in IT with nothing
    relevant to do. So they have to constantly invent new
    buzzwords and produce expensive conferences to spread
    them and convince CEOs, CIOs, and whoever else they can
    get to listen to buy new stuff to solve problems they
    never realize existed.
  • RE: Enteprise 2.0 - the non-debate

    Hi Dennis,

    I made a very serious attempt to bridge the perspectives in my blog post entitled "Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? How Strategy-Driven Execution can pave the path to proving legitimate business performance" located here: http://bit.ly/3n325o

    I would certainly welcome your feedback and look forward to a continued dialogue around the topic.

    Best Regards,

  • Why Web 2.0 will not work inside Enterprise

    Here are my 5 reasons: http://setandbma.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/why-web-2-0-will-not-work-inside-enterprise/
  • Debunking the Non-Debate

    I wrote a follow up to your fairly accurate analysis:

    Enterprise 2.0 Caffeine: Let?s Debunk the Non-Debate http://bit.ly/J6xN7
  • Show me the $$$

    I attended the recent Enterprise 2.0 Expo and spend time visiting with vendors and asking them to explain E2.0 and benefits. I have to agree with Dennis that the business case is pretty vague, based primarily on employee productivity.

    The fact that a business case with hard ROI doesn't mean the benefits aren't there, however. In my experience, truly strategic investments can't be "proved" with a spreadsheet analysis. A business leader has to decide it makes sense to support a key business initiative.

    In fact, it's mainly tactical initiatives that are easy to justify, such as streamlining an existing process to save time or money.

    So for business leaders that truly want to enable a collaborative way of working, they'll need new tools for that. But for those that want to continue to keep operating the same way, I find it hard to believe that "social" technologies will make any difference.

    One last point: there's very little mention of how the customer benefits in E2.0. Ultimately if a "social business strategy" is going to work, it has to deliver value that the customer will pay for.

    More info in this post: <a href="http://www.customerthink.com/blog/where_is_the_customer_in_enterprise_2_0">Where is the Customer in Enterprise 2.0?</a>
  • RE: Enteprise 2.0 - the non-debate


    Great of you to thrown-down the gauntlet here...
    I was on a panel at the east-coast version of the same conf in Boston earlier this year and wrote about it: http://bit.ly/Uys5h "What I learned (and didn't) at Enterprise 2.0 this week"

    I declined an opp to present at the West-coast table b/c frankly I've seen too much emphasis on the "social upheval" of E2.0. That's partly why next week when I present at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference, I'm striving for a more "practial" session (Building Enterprise Mashups)

    Even though I believe strongly in the more hands-on facets of E2.0 (disclaimer: I wrote the book Mashup Patterns) I don't disrespect the social value. But firms can't just let it sit out there as "unmeasured/unprovable".

    In my "Day Job" I have seen the benefits of collaboration, and I have strived to demonstrate the ROI to the business. For anyone else with this problem, I highly recommend the book "How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business" by Douglas Hubbard.

    Additionally, I would advise your readers to consider some simply empirical studies to find the value for your business. PBWiki has a great calculator here based on their research: http://www.pbwikiroi.com/ (it's not product specific and I don't endorse them btw :-))

    "He who controls the numbers controls the conversation." If you don't want to look like a buffoon to your management, you can't punt on the ROI question. You don't need the ultimate value proposition; go for conservative measurements but challenge your peers to find something better. Once you have some #s it gets hard to file E2.0 away under the "fad" category.
  • RE: Enteprise 2.0 - the non-debate

    Enterprise 2.0 has been usurped by Web 2.0 people who realized their entire "free" market would evaporate in second if they started charging. So they picked up stakes from their Web 2.0 events and walked over/created Enterprise 2.0. At present, the "stage" is dominated by social applications as the poster child. Business gets really nervous when you talk about social skill investments because that sounds suspiciously like HR and what their child is doing at home for countless hours.

    The dialogue will improve as business, quite an efficient filter of BS, realize their needs and new presenters take the stage.